Eyrie South Block

I have written before on this site of my admiration for the Eyrie Vineyards wines in Oregon.  Founder David Lett was the first to plant grapes in the Willamette Valley and anyone who has visited in the last several years and seen the thriving wine business that has overtaken that area will find it hard to believe that when Lett started he couldn’t convince anyone to even give him a loan to start.  Thankfully for us, he succeeded in finding funding and the results stand for themselves!  I have been fortunate to taste many Eyrie wines over the years including older vintages, special bottlings, etc.  However, the South Block pinot noir is probably the most rare and special bottling they make.  This is a tiny section of 10 rows in the original parcel planted by David Lett in 1965.  He recognized it early on as a special microclimate and began to bottle it separately.  The 1975 South Block pinot noir is the wine he submitted for competitions against the best Burgundies in the world and when the wine performed astoundingly well, it essentially put Oregon wine on the map!  So it is not only a special bottle of wine due to the wine itself, but a bottling that holds significant history with regards to the development of the region.  The South Block has been released intermittently over the years, sometimes after a decade or more of age.  In 2007, which was David Lett’s last harvest before he passed IMG_3165away, a bottling was released by his son Jason who now heads the team.  This was planned to be the final release, however Jason very unfortunately has noticed that phylloxera is now attacking the vines of the South Block and they will likely have to be replanted in the near future.  He has decided to make what wine he can from this special corner of the original Eyrie vineyards before these vines have to be replaced.  Thus, we have a 2013 Eyrie South Block!  I have a couple bottles in my cellar and having never really tried one young, I decided to pop one open this weekend to see how it was.  The bottom line is, the wine was phenomenal.  One of the best Oregon pinot noirs I’ve tasted. The color was deeper than many Eyrie wines with a dark garnet robe.  The nose was simply spellbinding.  It explodes out of the glass with a melange of ripe red berry fruits and is followed by captivating spice notes reminiscent of the great wines of Vosne-Romanée.  Asian five spice, clove, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg all make an appearance.  Under this fabulous combination of fruit and spice are floral notes of lilac and just a hint of forest floor.  The nose is good enough that it is almost hard to move on to take a sip!  I managed to do so however, and the palate continues the exceptional showing.  Deeper and more concentrated than almost any other Eyrie I’ve tried, this has tons of power, and dry extract that just coats your mouth.  There is certainly structure and the tannins are quite present, but they are buffered so much by the surrounding flavors the result is a cashmere elegance that is simply fabulous.  The finish leaves a lingering note of spice that lasts and lasts… the bottle continued to improve throughout the 2 hours of dinner and after dinner sipping and I have no doubt this will age gracefully for 2-3 decades.  It was really quite reminiscent of a great bottle of Echézeaux that I recently had.  A special wine from a special place.  Kudos to Jason Lett and the team at Eyrie for sharing this wine with us and I can only hope I can grab another vintage or two before this block disappears into the history books…

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